Washington, D.C. (July 29, 2021) — Today, the Members of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, chaired by Rep. James E. Clyburn, received a briefing from Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, regarding the spread of the Delta variant in the United States.
Chairman Clyburn said in opening remarks:
“I am deeply concerned about the rapidly increasing rates of coronavirus infections in states around the country that is being driven by the Delta variant. Coronavirus cases have increased 145 percent in the past two weeks. Hospitalizations and deaths are rising in turn—particularly in areas with low vaccination rates. This sudden turn of events threatens to undermine the significant progress we have made this year to overcome the pandemic.”
Chairman Clyburn also emphasized: “Getting vaccinated remains the most effective way to save lives and stop the spread of the Delta variant.”
Dr. Fauci and Dr. Walensky shared the following insights with Select Subcommittee Members during the briefing:
Current Coronavirus Vaccines Are Effective Against the Delta Variant, Particularly in Preventing Hospitalizations and Deaths
- Dr. Walensky explained that recent studies continue to demonstrate that coronavirus vaccines authorized in the United States are effective against the Delta variant. Dr. Fauci also emphasized that the current vaccines “are working very well” at preventing severe disease, including hospitalizations and death from the Delta variant.
- Dr. Fauci urged all unvaccinated people to get their shots, stating that the “primary reason” to get vaccinated is to “save your life” and “prevent you from getting seriously ill.” He explained that it is critical for those who were previously infected to get vaccinated, because the natural immunity conferred from prior infection may not protect individuals against new variants, such as the Delta variant—creating the risk of reinfection.
CDC’s Updated Mask Guidance Is Based on New Scientific Data and Necessary Due to Low Vaccination Rates in Many Areas Across the Country
- Dr. Walensky told Members that new data suggests fully vaccinated individuals who have had a breakthrough infection—although rare—may be able to spread the virus as easily as unvaccinated individuals who become infected. This scientific finding led CDC to update its mask guidance to recommend indoor mask use in public in areas with substantial or high levels of transmission.
- Dr. Walensky also noted that even for those who are fully vaccinated, CDC now recommends getting tested for the coronavirus 3-5 days after being exposed to someone who has the coronavirus. She added that it is important to also wear a mask indoors in public for two weeks following exposure.
The Delta Variant Presents New Risks and Challenges
- Dr. Fauci explained that the Delta variant is “considerably more transmissible” and has a viral load that is “about a thousand times higher” than the original virus. As a result, he cautioned that the risk of getting infected has increased.
- Dr. Walensky warned that the number of new coronavirus cases reported in the United States today is higher than the peak reported in Summer 2020, and that hospitalizations are now at approximately the same level as this time last year. Although Dr. Walensky reported that hospitalizations are down for Americans ages 70 and older, there are now “far more hospitalizations” among Americans ages 30 to 39 compared to last year.
Dr. Fauci and Dr. Walensky have previously testified before the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis. Dr. Fauci appeared before the Select Subcommittee on July 31, 2020, and April 15, 2021, and Dr. Walensky appeared before the Select Subcommittee on April 15, 2021.
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